Archive for November, 2006

Retro Scan of the Week: "Are Computers Bringing Familes Together, or Tearing Them Apart?"

Monday, November 27th, 2006
Computers Tearing Families Apart
Sensationalist journalism in a 1984 consumer computer magazine? Nah.

This scan is from a May 1984 article in Personal Computing by Craig Zarley titled "The Pleasures and Perils of Computing at Home." The article's main angle focuses on the numerous computer advertisements of the day that pictured an excited, wide-eyed family huddled around a computer while collectively enthralled by whatever is happening on the screen. First-time computer buyers got a rude awakening, however, when they took their new machines home and instead found most of the family competing for personal time with the "new family member."

Anyone who grew up with a sibling and not enough computers to go around can attest to this phenomenon, yet I find it funny that Personal Computing turned it into the cover article of a magazine. This means that either consumer-level personal computers were so new at the time (and they were) that issues like this seemed novel, or else the magazine was really desperate for material. Perhaps the correct answer lies somewhere between both extremes.

Still, I love those old "family" ads, even if they are unrealistic.

If you use this image on your site, please support "Retro Scan of the Week" by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

What Computer Nerds Should Be Thankful For

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Things That Nerds Should Be Thankful ForTomorrow is Thanksgiving in the United States, which means we cook a lot, eat a lot, sleep a lot, feel uncomfortable around somewhat estranged relatives a lot, prepare to spend a lot, officially start Christmas a lot, and generally take it all for granted, despite the title of the holiday. In order to break with American tradition, I thought I'd offer a personal list of things that I think we — vintage computer and video game enthusiasts — should be thankful for. After all, these things let us enjoy our hobbies. Without them, we'd be collecting dirt and not even know what it's called. Pay attention, my friends, as we start off serious-ish and degrade into something resembling silliness — but it's all in the name of holiday fun.

[ Continue reading What Computer Nerds Should Be Thankful For » ]

Retro Scan of the Week: Some Wood For Your 'Stick

Monday, November 20th, 2006
Skywriter Stick Station
Fresh from the Forgettable Video Game Accessories Department comes the Skywriter "Stick Station," a $15 piece of wood for your Atari 2600 joystick. Nobody knows what it really does, but at least you'll have a good place to put your frosty joystick so it doesn't leave those annoying "joystick rings" all over your coffee table during the humid summer months.

A Bit of (Fictional) Trivia: The president of Skywriter, Larry Egler, was once famously quoted as saying, "There will be a Stick Station on every table in America by 1990." Few people know that it was a misquote that has been erroneously reprinted in many books on video game history. In truth, Mr. Egler said, "There will be a table on every Stick Station in America by 1990," a prediction that actually came true: all remaining Stick Stations in the continental United States are now being used to shore up wobbly table legs.

[ From Computer Games, June 1984. Special thanks to McPhail Hunt for donating the issue. ]

If you use this image on your site, please support "Retro Scan of the Week" by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

Name Those Pixels: Challenge #1

Friday, November 17th, 2006

Pixel Challenge #1Hello, Matt Groves here from mgroves.com. RedWolf thought that the recent Name Those Pixels contest I ran on my blog would make a great weekly feature here at Vintage Computing and Gaming.

So welcome to the first Name Those Pixels contest, VC&G edition. The object of the challenge is to guess which video game the pixels (shown in the image to the right) come from. If necessary, I will provide clues in the comments if no one is coming close, but based on the guesses I got the first time I did this, there are a lot of clever people out there who will get this right away.

To play, write your guess in this post's comments section. The answer to this week's challenge won't be revealed until next week. I only ask that if you know the answer for sure, please don't spoil it for everyone else by linking to a full screen shot of the game.

To start you off, here is your very first hint: this is a U.S. NES release.

Enjoy! -mgroves

The Apple Lisa: My Holy Grail, Attained

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

RedWolf's New Apple Lisa 2I've wanted an Apple Lisa since I first set eyes on one around 1994 in my middle school library. I was studying there with a class when I spotted an exotic-looking Apple machine sitting on a cart across the room. After puzzling for a bit, I realized that it must be an Apple Lisa, an almost mythical machine that I had read about in The Journey is the Reward, but I had never even seen a picture of until then.

Location of RedWolf's First Lisa SightingI had already been collecting computers for at least two years when I saw the machine, and I was always on the lookout for more additions to my collection. I had heard of a little-known machine called the "Lisa" that Apple released somewhere between the Apple III and the Macintosh, but I had never seen or used one. So when I spotted the Lisa in the library that day, it was an epiphany to me — the Apple story was vividly coming together in my brain. Knowing that the Lisa (a Lisa 2, as it turned out) in the school library was obsolete, I feared that the librarians wouldn't know what to do with it and would throw it away. I had to take action, but I was painfully shy, and I was only about thirteen or fourteen years old. I was afraid to ask them about the computer because I figured they wouldn't take me seriously. So I convinced my mother (the best mom ever) to drive back to the library after school and ask the librarians if we could buy the Lisa from them. The librarians had to decline the offer, since it had been donated to the library and was property of the county school system. Sadly, I fear that the Lisa in the library probably met a nasty fate not too long after that incident — a victim of short-sighted middle school bureaucracy.

[ Continue reading The Apple Lisa: My Holy Grail, Attained » ]

Retro Scan of the Week: Multitasking Video Game Kid

Monday, November 13th, 2006
Quad Gaming
First, the good news. Your little brother has learned to play video games with five controllers at once — an amazing feat of skill. The bad news? He's sitting on one of your joysticks.

If you use this image on your site, please support "Retro Scan of the Week" by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

Retro Scan of the Week: "So You Want to Be a Video Games Inventor"

Sunday, November 5th, 2006
So You Want to Be a Video Games Inventor
So…you'd like to be a Video Games Inventor, eh? Well, sorry, but you have to look like the guy in the lower left. And to do that, you have to go back in time to 1982 and work for Magnavox. By the way, that guy is only twenty years old.

(Ok…the article says 35, but still.)

This scan came from the premiere (Winter 1982) issue of "Odyssey² Adventure Club Magazine," Magnavox's official monthly magazine / propaganda pamphlet for Odyssey² fans — sorta like Nintendo Power these days. Actually, "Odyssey² Adventure" is more a newsletter than a magazine, since all the issues I have are only about fifteen pages long. Nonetheless, this article is an amusing look into the world of Odyssey² game developers, straight from the horse's mouth.

A quick compare-and-contrast of these guys with Atari's "pot-smoking hippie" game programmer image of the late 1970s and even today's "early twenties slacker" programmers makes the Odyssey folks look like a bunch of straight-laced leprechaun engineers. Ralph Baer, what hath thou wrought!

If you use this image on your site, please support "Retro Scan of the Week" by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

VCF Update: RedWolf Meets Woz

Sunday, November 5th, 2006
Steve Wozniak signing autographs
Just a quick update from VCF 9.0: I had a great day yesterday at the festival. Everyone I talked to was friendly, courteous, and obviously quite passionate about vintage computers. All in all, they're a great crowd to mull around in.

The VCF exhibits and marketplace were cool, but the Apple 30th birthday session was even cooler. Steve Wozniak, Chris Espinosa, Daniel Kottke, and Randy Wigginton were on hand to discuss Apple's early days in front of a packed audience upstairs in the Computer History Museum. I chatted with all of them after the session and they're all great guys. Woz, despite feeling under the weather yesterday, was kind enough to stay after, brave a long line of computer nerds like me, and sign copies of his new autobiography iWoz and anything else (t-shirts, Apple hardware, manuals) that people wanted him to sign. I told him about the Woz Halloween costume I suggested last week on VC&G and he laughed.

Great times all around!

Going to California — and the Vintage Computer Festival

Friday, November 3rd, 2006

VCF GuyI'm leaving for California today to attend VCF 9.0, or more properly, the ninth iteration of the Vintage Computer Festival. It's taking place at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California (home of Google and other cool tech companies). As a result of my trip, regular posts will be thin in the coming week or so, but I hope to be reporting on the going-ons at the festival if I get a chance. If nothing else, I should be able to post a full write-up of my Silicon Valley adventure when I get back.

Maybe I'll see you there. If you spot a weird, squirrelly-looking guy with a handlebar mustache, neon-pink jumpsuit, and a gigantic sombrero swaggering around, you'll know it's me.

Vintage Computing and Gaming Turns One

Thursday, November 2nd, 2006

Vintage Computing and Gaming LogoOne year ago today, I posted my first entry on Vintage Computing and Gaming. Little did I know at the time that it would be the start of something that would grow much faster and larger than I could have ever expected.

I started this site because I wanted to share my love of vintage computers and video games with the world. As it turned out, the world shared its love back, and it did so quite generously. What started as a personal project and blog became nothing less than a quasi-magazine nearly overnight, with all-new, original features published regularly, but on a quality over quantity basis. I personally try to ensure that every article that appears on VC&G is high quality and unique. The results of my efforts have spoken for themselves in the form of an active, steadily increasing readership. We still have plenty of room to grow, however, so the most exciting times for VC&G are still ahead of us. I know there are plenty of untapped vintage computer and "retrogaming" enthusiasts out there, so anything you do to spread the word about VC&G is incredibly appreciated.

It's always a joy to gain new readers because the community that has gathered around VC&G over the past year is a generous, friendly, insightful, intelligent, and positive one that I am extremely proud to call my own. You guys are great, and every time you post a comment, it honestly makes my day. As long as you folks keep reading and sharing your passions with others, I'll keep writing new articles for you to enjoy.

Thank you so much for reading my words — and the words of our contributors — for these last twelve months. With your support, I hope to be writing a similarly positive statement around this time next year…and for many years to come. Thanks again, and happy birthday VC&G! — RedWolf